MANKATO – As much as Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman endured last season, you’d think nothing else would surprise him anymore.
He more than anyone knows how his team has been decimated by injuries his first two seasons on the job, but even Adelman seemed a little startled when he learned just how much the foundational threesome of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic played together last season.
Or rather how little: 13 minutes.
That’s right, 13 mere minutes spread over three whole games.
The three surpassed that mark on the first day of practice in Mankato this year before the Wolves took their first water break on Tuesday.
“Much longer,” Adelman said of that first-day practice feat.
Now all three — and their teammates, too — must prove they can stay healthy after the trio played just 26 games together their first two seasons because of injury.
Rubio missed the final six weeks of the 2011-12 season and the first six weeks of last season after he tore ligaments in his knee. Love missed all but 18 games last season because of a hand broken not once but twice. And Pekovic missed 19 games two years ago and 17 last season because of everything from bone spurs, sprained ankles and a strained hip to seven games when Adelman simply chose not to play him.
“I knew that number wasn’t high,” Adelman said about the 13 minutes played, “but I didn’t know it was that.”
During the few minutes they did play together last season, statistics indicate they were a dominant rebounding team with numbers that would lead the league in any given season as well as a team proficient in drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line.
The three played 23 games together two years ago, but so much has changed since the start of the 2011-12 season to a team that now defines those three men as its core, both by their talent and their paychecks.
The Wolves have committed their future to Love and Pekovic to the tune of $120 million-plus and are ready to add Rubio to the club come summer 2015.
More minutes in preseason
Now they just have to become reacquainted on the court, even though Love and Pekovic have played on the same team since 2010.
Adelman promises he will play those three — and the other two starters, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer — together plenty this preseason, more than he normally might just so they all can get back on the proverbial bike together.
“It makes sense because we’ve probably played … how many minutes did we play together last year?” Love asked. “It makes sense for him to do that. We’re three unselfish guys, and we’re a pretty unselfish team. We’ll figure it out. It’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
NBA title contenders usually have played years together, the 2008 Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen gathered in their first season together being a recent exception.